Children's Services Honors Five New Yorkers for Contributions to Child Safety
The Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) honored five New Yorkers with its Commissioner’s Child Advocacy Award for their efforts in keeping the New York City’s children safe. ACS saluted each individual as part of National Child Abuse Prevention Month, as New York City joins the nation in stressing that reporting child abuse at the first sign of potential trouble is the best way to keep children from being harmed. Children’s Services urges all adults who suspect abuse or neglect to call 311 or New York’s Child Abuse hotline at 1-800-342-3720.
In honoring these five exemplary New Yorkers, ACS Commissioner John B. Mattingly cited them for their “extraordinary efforts to protect children, strengthen families, and support Children’s Services’ effort to achieve those goals.” Those honored were Dr. Joycelyn Brown of the Manhattan Child Advocacy Center; Detective Luz Figueroa of the NYPD’s Queens Child Abuse Squad based at the Queens Child Advocacy Center; Melissa Plowden-Norman and Christina Richburg of Bed-Stuy Advocates; and Wayne Ho of the Coalition for Asian American Children and Families.
“The Commissioner’s Child Advocacy Awards is the highest honor that we can give to individuals who we believe go above and beyond to help ACS protect vulnerable children and families in New York City,” said Commissioner Mattingly.
The Commissioner also noted that the Child Advocacy Award is the same award given weekly to Children’s Services’ front-line workers in its ChildStat meetings. These are workers who have the very difficult task of investigating reports of child abuse and neglect in often dangerous situations, each and every day, seven days a week. Each year, Children's Services investigates more than 60,000 reports of child abuse and neglect involving approximately 90,000 children.
Those honored today contribute to the work with families and children in keeping them safe and whole. The honorees cited:
- Dr. Jocelyn Brown, Medical Director at the Manhattan Child Advocacy Center, a co-located facility which brings together all those involved in a child abuse investigation, including caseworkers, police, prosecutors and medical staff. Very early on, Dr. Brown recognized that abuse was a public health concern, and that to address it would require collaboration among all entities dealing with it. She was inspired to open one of the first hospital based programs for child abuse victims, which has spearheaded the treatment of more than 600 children since its opening in 1995. Her clinical and research experience has focused on the medical diagnosis of child abuse, the coordination of a multidisciplinary response to the investigation, the prosecution of child abuse cases, and the delivery of mental health services for abused children. Dr. Brown is also a professor at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons.
- Detective Luz Figueroa, an NYPD veteran with 18 years on the force, has been with the Queens Child Abuse Squad at the Queens Child Advocacy Center for
the past four years. Detective Figueroa previously worked with the Brooklyn Special Victims Squad, where she investigated reports of sexual abuse against young children. Detective Figueroa enhances every case that she works on with her ability to make everybody involved in the case feel comfortable --from the child victim, to the non-offending caregiver, to even the perpetrator, which enables her to get a high number of confessions with her arrests.
- Wayne Ho is Executive Director of the Coalition of Asian American Children and Families (CACF), an organization that has been generous in lending its voice and expertise to help Children's Services to provide more culturally competent services to the Asian American community through improved language access. The CACF also assists with training programs at the ACS James Satterwhite Academy. The Coalition developed a booklet called “Keeping Children Safe – A Guide for Immigrant Families to Understand Child Abuse and Neglect Laws and Support Services in New York,” and it has been distributed to more than 21,000 people in 7 different languages. This pamphlet has been a complement to our efforts to provide the best possible services to all the families we serve.
- Melissa Plowden-Norman is a founding member of Bed-Stuy Advocates and Christina Richburg is its Executive Director. They began Bed-Stuy Advocates as a way to support the work of Children’s Services and to link services in the community to families who need them, as well as building a bridge between the community and Children's Services. In their efforts to educate their community on recognizing the signs of child abuse and neglect, Bed-Stuy Advocates conducts child safety forums bringing this information to parents at PTA meetings and to the general public at community meetings. They help to demystify the concept of child abuse and neglect – which is complicated in a diverse community like Bedford Stuyvesant because of the cultural differences among the area’s many immigrant groups. For families with children in foster care, Bed-Stuy Associates helps parents to work more effectively with our staff to achieve our common goal of returning children home in the shortest time possible. The organization also helps to recruit individuals willing to act as hosts to parents visiting their children in foster care. Bed Stuy Advocates is also a member of Children’s Services’ Bedford-Stuyvesant Community Partnership Initiative.
Through their work – in Child Advocacy Centers, community organizations, police precincts, hospitals and elsewhere – each of these individuals is helping to care for children, to connect with and educate families, to extend a safety net, and to protect children from those who would abuse them.
The Commissioner’s Child Advocacy Award states: “For extraordinary efforts to protect children, strengthen families, and support Children’s Services’ efforts to achieve these goals.” The plaque also contains this quote by Tracy Kidder: “Good people put snags in the river of children passing by, and over the years, they redirect hundreds of lives. There is an innocence that conspires to hold humanity together, and it is made of people who can never fully know the good that they have done.”
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